“This history is written in
other than ordinary characters,
and in Gnosis, in Theosophy,
is called 'The Akashic Record.'”
— Rudolf Steiner 
“[O]ne of the things that we cultivate
...is occultism ...
Occult mean 'hidden' or 'mysterious.'”
— Rudolf Steiner 
Religions require faith of their followers. Usually, this requirement is very nearly absolute. You may have doubts; you may wrestle with your conscience; you may pass through dark nights of the soul. But, ultimately, you must have faith. The truths of the creed are beyond ordinary comprehension; they are sacred. So have faith, commit yourself, and follow the prescribed rituals.
A few religions, however, make a gesture toward emphasizing knowledge rather than faith. Broadly speaking, we can call these religions “gnostic” — they hold that humanity can receive the blessings of the gods only by acquiring the necessary knowledge of spiritual matters. This knowledge is often said to hidden, hard to find, occult — but nonetheless crucial. It is “gnosis,” from the Greek, meaning secret knowledge.
Despite laying claim to knowledge, gnostic religions depend on faith just as much as all other religions, since the secret knowledge they affirm is almost certainly delusory. Have I said this too strongly? If so, I’ll modify my statement slightly. Gnostic “knowledge” is surely well hidden. “Discovering” it often entails mystic rituals, fasts, and efforts to cultivate extraordinary powers such as clairvoyance. Sometimes, for understandable reasons, alcohol or “holy” drugs such a peyote are involved; or, if the faithful do not turn to chemical aids, they nonetheless drug themselves by relying on dreams, visions, mystical signs, astrological "readings," devotional ceremonies, forms of enchantment, magic, superstition, and the like. What is “learned” through such practices cannot be confirmed by anyone who does not enter similar states of altered consciousness (intuition, inspiration, clairvoyance...), in which case their own reports will be fully as untrustworthy as the reports they hope to confirm. When they aren't sworn to secrecy (which they often are), initiates may attempt to describe their subjective experiences to the uninitiated, but such experiences may be explained — and dismissed — as products of the subconscious.
Subjective experiences may be extremely powerful, of course. You may be convinced by the felt power of your inner life. But such conviction is often built on little more than the emotional will to believe. No one other than yourself can know what you "know" inwardly, and even you may not truly "know" the things you think your inner experiences prove. Inner experiences — subjective, emotional, dreamlike, intuitive — are notoriously unreliable. We deceive ourselves all the time. (We do this unintentionally, often; but sometimes an unacknowledged intention, an ardent yearning, guides our self-deception.) Recognizing self-deception and weaning ourselves from it is the key requirement for rationality and even sanity. But it is a hard process, never fully completed. Each time we see through one of our illusions, we must set to work trying to see through the next. [For more on these matters, see, e.g.,"Inside Scoop", "Fooling (Ourselves)", and "Why? Oh Why?".] Unlike real-world knowledge, gnostic or mystic “knowledge” is not genuinely confirmed but merely asserted. Deciding whether to accept such "knowledge" becomes, in the end, an almost arbitrary act of volition. You either believe or you don't. You either have the faith or you don't. For that's what it comes down to: faith.
Rudolf Steiner’s religion, Anthroposophy, is gnostic. The “knowledge” it professes is largely esoteric or occult; true comprehension can be had only through a process of initiation. The tool initiates of this religion use for their spiritual investigations is “spiritual science,” i.e., the enactment of Anthroposophical investigatory procedures. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Knowing the Worlds".] In reality, “spiritual science” does not work — it depends on clairvoyance, which does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] In reality, “spiritual science” is a religion, not a science; it is a faith in which the adherents cling to specified doctrines in the hope of receiving spiritual benefits. 
I will return to the subject of initiation later. But let’s proceed by examining the Anthroposophical "knowledge" that we, the uninitiated, are permitted to hear about; then we can circle back to consider the process that, supposedly, can unlock deeper mysteries. To start, we need to make a distinction. In the 2nd Century A.D., in Greece, a particular form of Christian gnosticism arose. Having roots in pre-Christian paganism, this system of thought held that the true meaning of Christ’s teachings and virtually all other spiritual doctrines lies hidden behind their apparent meaning. This Gnosticism (capital G — distinguishing it from small-g, general gnosticism) was vigorously opposed by orthodox believers at the time, and mainstream Christianity soon rejected it as heresy. In fact, the canon and creed of the Church were formulated largely in reaction to Gnosticism. 
Steiner was well acquainted with Gnostic doctrines, and although he tried to distance himself from those doctrines, his own teachings bear striking parallels to them.
The following quotation is even more obscure than most Steiner statements, so before we plunge into it I’ll offer an explanation and paraphrase. As always, Steiner insisted that real religion and the concept of evolution are compatible, as long as evolution is conceived as he himself described it — a spiritual process leading humanity up from the dullest imaginable consciousness up to extremely advanced forms of consciousness, culminating in divine consciousness. He claimed that the ancient Gnostics understood this, although not as clearly as he.
The Gnostics of Greece said that “world-evolution” began when a “primordial Being” — a god — created the world. That god was the Demiurge or “Demiurgos.”  According to Steiner, to understand the Demiurgos, we need a higher form of consciousness than is required to understand the Bible. He said that the Demiurgos, the Creator, should not be confused with the God of the Bible, Jehovah. The Demiurgos stands at the summit of a hierarchy of gods, ranks upon ranks of gods, with Jehovah occupying a fairly low rank. Steiner effectively equated the Creator Demiurgos with the amorphous Godhead, which may be conceived as the highest form of divinity, dwelling in the Crystal Heaven, so far off as to be almost uninvolved in our region of the universe. 
The "gods" who are ranked below the Demiurgos were known to the Greeks as Aeons, according to Steiner. Jehovah, a lowly Aeon, did not create the universe but he did create mankind on the physical level: Jehovah united with physical matter, allowing physical human beings to come into existence. Later, a higher Aeon was needed to redeem Jehovah’s creation in this gross physical realm. This higher Aeon (in Anthroposophy, He is the Sun God: Christ) manifested itself in Jesus of Nazareth, giving a new spiritual direction that offset the ancient shortcomings of Jehovah. 
Are you having trouble distinguishing Anthroposophical doctrines from Gnostic teachings? That’s because they are in fact quite similar (as long as we accept Steiner's account of Gnosticism). Here is the quotation I have been discussing:
The picture Steiner attributed to the Gnostics is essentially the view he himself adopted: God or the Godhead is within us but He also dwells far from us, removed in both spiritual space and time; ranks of gods descend from the Godhead; Jehovah is a relatively low god; Jesus was a man in whom a high god manifested itself. This is Anthroposophical doctrine, traceable to Gnosticism among other sources.
According to the Gnostics (according to Steiner), Christ is a god or spirit arising from the pure essence of the Aeons:
Steiner’s specific version of this belief (or “knowledge”) is that Christ, the Sun God, came to Earth in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
Note that Steiner said that belief is not enough for mankind’s evolutionary needs. Mankind needs knowledge in order to evolve properly; knowledge is “a necessity.” This is his version of gnosticism, pinning our hope of salvation not on faith or good works but on occult knowledge. [See "Occultism".] As in most religions, the doctrines of Steiner's newly created religion promise rewards for adherents and punishments for the wayward. Those who acquire the “knowledge” offered by Anthroposophy will move upward toward sublime spiritual elevation. Those who do not gain this knowledge — those who fail to follow Christ properly — will descend to lower evolutionary ranks, they will be left behind. In stressing these ideas, Steiner erased the distinction between his “science” and religion. The “knowledge” offered by Anthroposophy is religious doctrine, required for salvation. 
The parallels between Anthroposophy and capital-G Gnosticism are suggestive, but Steiner denied that he sought to revive any ancient form of gnostic (esoteric, occult) belief, and we can accept this denial. Anthroposophy is gnostic not because it conforms to ancient Christian Gnosticism or any other ancient esoteric creed, but because it seeks hidden spiritual knowledge as the key to salvation. In other words, it seeks “knowledge” not for knowledge’s sake, as a science would; it seeks “knowledge” for the sake of our souls, as a religion.
Steiner said that some forms of gnosticism predate Christ.
We can see, here, that Steiner did not confine the concept of gnosis to the Christian era or to the particular Gnostic period in the 2nd Century A.D. For him, “Gnosis” (gnosis) sometimes served as a synonym for deep spiritual Truth, which is what he claimed to offer the modern world through Anthroposophy. Some forms of gnosis existed before the advent of Gnosis, and a still higher form of gnosis exists now, thanks to R. Steiner. Each form of esoteric truth has been appropriate for the age in which it appeared. Before the “Mystery of Golgotha” (the miraculous victory of Christ, symbolized by Calvary or Golgotha), certain gnostic information was possessed by the wisest humans. After the Crucifixion, a new form of gnosticism became appropriate. And in the modern world, a still newer form is available — Anthroposophy. (To follow the next quotation, you need to know that the “sentient soul” preceded the “mind-soul,” which is associated with intellect. [See "What We're Made Of".] These are progressive levels of human soul development. The “spiritual soul” is a yet higher level.)
According to Steiner, humans constantly evolve — either upward (good humans) or downward (bad humans).  Good humans today require a higher form of esoteric knowledge than ancient humans needed. The role of Anthroposophy is thus not to reconstitute old knowledge but to advance to higher forms of esoteric knowledge: Anthroposophy offers the new gnosis.
Although he denied that he wanted to revive ancient Gnosticism, Steiner’s attitude toward that body of strange teachings was extremely protective. Consider the following. Referring to the 2nd Century, Steiner said:
Attacking Gnosis “is almost blasphemous.” Gnosis presented “the deeper Christian revelation.” It was “revealed to men in atavistic clairvoyance.” Gnosis, in other words, was the truth. Ancient Gnosis no longer suffices for modern humans, yet it was the truth. What modern humans need is the successor to ancient Gnosis: Anthroposophy, which presents “the deeper Christian revelation” as revealed to Steiner through his new and improved clairvoyance. Anthroposophy is spiritual truth extended and heightened for humanity at its latest level of evolution.
Here is a related point, of special importance to Christians. Steiner was no fan of “the dogmatic Christianity of the West.” Anthroposophy varies from orthodox Christian dogma far more than it varies from ancient Gnosticism. Steiner’s teachings may seem, at first blush, only slightly different from church teachings; but they veer far afield. According to Steiner, Christ is the Logos, the Living Word of God. Many Christians would agree, at least initially. But look where Steiner goes with this teaching.
Steiner denied the literal truth of the Bible, and he also diverged from sophisticated orthodox interpretations of the Bible. His "Christianity" is enmeshed in concepts that are wholly absent from mainstream Christianity. From an Anthroposophical perspective, Logos (from the Greek, meaning “word”) is closely related to Gnosis, “the deeper Christian revelation.” The meaning of the Word is not what can be found in the Bible; it is the hidden spiritual knowledge that we must attain through the mysterious, clairvoyant processes of Anthroposophy. Remember that according to Steiner, Christ is the Sun-God. And notice how Steiner said that Christ united “His cosmic destiny with the Earth.” What can this mean? Steiner’s doctrines includes karma (destiny) and reincarnation. Even Christ (identified as the pagan Sun God) falls under these doctrines, as seen in Anthroposophy. Steiner's teachings take us far from the Bible and mainstream Christian beliefs.
Let’s examine the central concern of Christianity, humanity’s salvation through Christ the Lord. Steiner rarely spoke of “salvation” as the particular objective of his teachings. He spoke, instead, of evolution. Nonetheless, salvation of a sort (supreme spiritual evolution) is the goal, and Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is the vehicle that can get us there. At the current stage of our evolution, Steiner taught, Anthroposophy works under the guidance of the Archangel Michael, who now has special responsibilities for shepherding mankind.  Ultimately, traveling in the direction Michael establishes for us, we will gain salvation.
But, according to Steiner, we won’t be saved by Christ. Instead, we will evolve “toward” Christ, fulfilling a divine evolutionary process of karmic destiny that began "on" Saturn. [See "Planets".] In the distant future, our journey toward Christ will take us to Vulcan and then beyond:
Steiner’s version of Christianity consists of precisely this sort of hidden spiritual "knowledge": gnosis, indeed.
Steiner held that the deepest truths about spiritual matters are, for the most part, hidden. And he said that much of the knowledge about such hidden truths must, itself, remain hidden from the general public. Yet in his books and lectures he claimed to reveal broad swaths of previously hidden spiritual knowledge. How can we explain this apparent contradiction?
The answer involves the concept of initiation. As portrayed by Steiner, a spiritual initiate is one who has passed certain occult tests in order to qualify for access to the “mysteries” (spiritual knowledge too deep and dark for ordinary understanding). When meeting in private with his most devoted followers — generally self-identified initiates — Steiner professed to speak openly about the greatest, most mysterious spiritual insights. But when addressing the general public, Steiner professed to be far more guarded. He said that modern humanity needs the "wisdom" embodied in his teachings, Anthroposophy. But most people, being uninitiated, are not equipped to comprehend or benefit from the deeper truths he possessed. So when communicating with the uninitiated — the likes of you and me — Steiner withheld knowledge that he indicated we should not have. For instance, in his magnum opus, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE — a book sold freely to one and all — Steiner refused to disclose what life on Vulcan will be like.
And note the title of the book. Steiner was prepared to publicly divulge the outline of occult revelation, but only the outline. In his public lectures, Steiner professed to be similarly circumspect (although one some occasions he was more open than on others) — he revealed a lot, but he tantalizingly claimed to withhold a lot.
Most gnostic or occult religions require initiation — they guard their secrets from outsiders. Even discussion with outsiders is often barred. Many of Steiner’s books carry this prefatory statement:
Only initiates, in other words, need apply. Only initiates can truly understand Steiner's teachings, and only they are equipped to form opinions of Steiner's teachings.
Anthroposophical texts are freighted with references to “mystery knowledge,” “esoteric knowledge,” and the like. For instance, discussing a circle of initiates in the past, Steiner indicated,
This is a reasonably good description of Anthroposophy itself: an activity that attempts to make divine knowledge available to humanity. But the precondition of initiation must be met before the deepest knowledge may be revealed. Steiner describes initiation in KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT  and also in OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE.  Let’s consider what he says in the latter book, in the chapter titled “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (Concerning Initiation)”.
Anthroposophical initiation is a process of preparing one’s soul, mind, and heart to receive “supersensible” knowledge — that is, knowledge than cannot be attained by using our ordinary senses. Clairvoyance is required. And although clairvoyance presumably permits objective, "scientific" explorations of the higher worlds, a religious attitude is required: You must be reverent. Criticism and opposition (i.e., rational analysis) are out. Stipulating the need for “reverent devotion” Steiner says:
To seek “knowledge,” you must begin with a religious attitude toward what you will learn. Instead of beginning with a neutral, objective, scientific frame of mind, wondering whether higher worlds exist, you have to presuppose the existence of such worlds and vest them with holiness. If you have not been born with a "feeling" of reverence, you have to "cultivate" it. You should be filled with "boundless devotion at the revelation" of what you "divine" about "sublime spiritual powers." In other words, you can be initiated only if you begin by accepting "truths" that can only be confirmed at the end of your initiation. Indeed, there will be no real confirmation, only an endless reaffirmation of your original "feeling." (A skeptic would argue that his undermines the entire enterprise; you don't actually learn much, you simply make some presuppositions and then you require yourself to believe them.)
It is necessary to set aside rationality, by and large; the path to wisdom comes not through the brain, chiefly, but through the heart, as it were. To become initiated, Steiner taught, you should devote yourself to certain mental and spiritual exercises that will "cultivate" the required "feeling."  Progress toward that goal is arduous, and it must be undertaken even in the face of powers that might block the path. (I'll present the following opaque quotation without interruption; then I'll offer some explanations.)
There’s a lot to chew on in this passage.
All of this, as you can see, hinges on “mystery”, “hidden” knowledge, and “initiation." These are Steiner’s words. Anthroposophy is the process that supposedly enables “pupils” or aspirants to penetrate the mysteries, gain the hidden knowledge, and attain initiation.
But, you may wonder, how can I explain these matters when I am not an initiate? There's no real mystery about it. As I suggested previously, Steiner was torn between revealing his doctrines and concealing them; between being celebrated for his great "wisdom" and being honored for preserving mystical "secrets." In the process, he revealed much — if not, presumably, everything. By enduring the mental travail of plowing through Steiner's books and lectures, any reasonably intelligent person can grasp the main points of Steiner's teachings. This is, in a sense, its own form of initiation — although, as Steiner stressed, "true" initiation requires submission, not critical analysis. If you try hard enough, with sufficient reverence and imagination, you may convince yourself to "see" the things Steiner claimed to "see." On the other hand, even if you withhold your credence, you can still understand what Steiner was driving at.
Human history, as described by Steiner, has been a tug-of-war between the truths of gnosticism and the fallacies of other, lesser bodies of knowledge. The following quotation is from HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN? by R. Steiner.
One form of thinking — the gnostic form — leads to Truth; the other leads to blindness, lack of penetration, obtuseness. The latter form has prevailed, for mankind at large, but not for Steiner and his band.
We can find Christ (the Sun God, not our Redeemer precisely but an excellent Example) by “acquiring” Anthroposophy.
The triumph of Anthroposophy is nigh unto inevitable. Nevertheless, you would be well advised to embrace Anthroposophy now rather than waiting for your next Earthly incarnation. Anthroposophy is the true way — without it, you will not know the higher worlds, you will not receive the blessings of the gods who wish to be your teachers.
Receiving the divine blessings requires following Christ. This, in turn, requires following Anthroposophy. "We must acquire Anthroposophy, knowledge of the human being, which will be able to engender cosmic feeling again. That is the way.” Hallelujah.
A while after writing the essay above, I wrote the following for a different forum.
Although it covers some of the ground we've already been over, I'll append it here.
You may find some interesting, supplementary material in it.
Gnosis is hidden, esoteric knowledge; gnosticism is the study or possession of such knowledge. A useful synonym for gnosis, one Steiner often used, is “mystery knowledge.” In theology, a “mystery” is a secret rite or the secret knowledge underlying that rite. In orthodox Christianity, the eucharist is deemed a mystery: Bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. Steiner spoke of other Christian mysteries, predominantly the “Mystery of Golgotha” — that is, the hidden meaning of Christ’s Earthly mission, culminating in his Crucifixion. In orthodox Christianity, the meaning of the Crucifixion is not mysterious: It is the central tenet of Christian faith, that Christ died for our sins in order to redeem them and save us. Steiner offers a very different take on Christ and His death.
In emphasizing “mysteries,” Steiner created a modern form of gnosticism. He denied this, sometimes, and in a limited, literal sense he was correct: Gnosticism (capital G) was a movement of the second century AD, and Anthroposophy does not literally endorse the doctrines of that movement. But at a deeper level, Steiner’s denial is false. Steiner said that Gnosticism was essentially true and Anthroposophy is true — i.e., the latter derives from the former; Anthroposophy reformulates mystery teachings in the form appropriate to our more advanced stage of evolution. Criticizing Gnosticism is tantamount to blasphemy, Steiner said, and rejecting Anthroposophy would be a similarly grave error. Anthroposophy holds the “deeper Christian revelation” — the mystery knowledge that is denied to the uninitiated. Like the Gnostics and, later, the Rosicrucians, Anthroposophists possess deep mystery knowledge that can be revealed only to the initiated. But in various ways, Steiner let the cat out of the bag, at least part way.
What is the “current conception of the Christ Being,” the conception that Steiner disparages? It is what the churches preach: that Christ is the Son of God, and He is our Savior. These concepts are only partially correct, Steiner said. Who is the Christ, really? According to Steiner, He is the Sun God, our Prototype who came to Earth in order to advance our evolution.
The “meaning” of our evolution, like the “meaning” of Christ’s mission, is hidden from all but the initiated.
According to Steiner, the real Christian message was destroyed by the Catholic Church, headquartered in southern Europe. Northern Europeans also lost true, gnostic understanding of Christ, because they focused on Jesus the man instead of Christ the god; but the northern vision of Christ had greater heartfelt truth than the corrupt Roman vision. Also, the northern vision (informed by Norse myths) came closer to the hidden truths of our existence:
The “secret of man” — this is what can be detected in Norse myths, in Gnosis, and now in Anthroposophy (anthro: human; sophy: knowledge or wisdom). This is what Christ brought us, according to Steiner — Christ was our Prototype because he showed us what we are, spiritual beings whose true dwelling is beyond the Earth. And, like Christ, we can evolve beyond our current station:
Note that what Christ underwent in coming to Earth from a higher realm is what each human undergoes.
Most people, including orthodox churchmen, do not understand the real meaning and message of Christ. But Steiner is the successor to Mystery priests who knew Christ’s real identity:
Note that the essay I’ve just now quoted contains “The Message of Anthroposophy.” And what is that message?
Can we call this message Christian? Perhaps, in a way. Steiner claimed that his teachings reveal the true Christian message. But his teachings insist on Mystery knowledge — we can be saved through possession of secret knowledge, not through faith or good works. This is the Gnostic claim that is a heresy according to orthodox Christian teachings.
According to Steiner, Christ was once a god of another celestial sphere, but now he is our “brother”: He is our Savior only to the extent that he is our Prototype, a being such as we ourselves may become. Steiner used some more or less conventional Christian language, but his conception of Christ and his emphasis on Mystery knowledge separate Anthroposophy from orthodox Christianity — and Steiner insisted that our salvation (immortality, evolution) depends on Anthroposophy. “[W]hen, prepared by Anthroposophy, men are ready to seek again for the spiritual world....” (As we have seen, orthodox Christianity contains "mysteries," but the Gnostic emphasis on mysterious or occult "wisdom" as the key to Salvation was largely purged when Gnosticism was declared heretical. In contrast, occultism is central to Anthroposophy. [See "Occultism".])
Here is Steiner’s distinctly heterodox summary of the Christ story:
This, in brief, is what Steiner meant Anthroposophy, his Theory of Everything, to be. Anthroposophy intersects with Christianity, especially in emphasizing Christ, but it also intersects with other religions and worldviews to virtually the same degree. Anthroposophy stresses polytheism, karma, reincarnation, and evolution, for instance — these are absolutely key concepts — and these do not come from Christianity nor are they generally consistent with it. Anthroposophy is Christian to the extent that it emphasizes Christ. But it is Hindu to the extent that it emphasizes reincarnation and karma. It is “scientific,” perhaps, to the extent that it emphasizes evolution. It is Zoroastrian to the extent that it emphasizes Ahriman. But really it is neither Christian nor Hindu, neither scientific nor Zoroastrian. It is itself — it is a unique amalgam of beliefs, derived from many sources, significantly including Theosophy, Gnosticism, and Rosicrucianism — systems that all stress the importance of secret spiritual knowledge and, thus, systems that run contrary to mainstream Christian teachings.
— Roger Rawlings
Language has extraordinary importance and power, according to Steiner. It forms and shapes thoughts, which exist in the supersensible realm as real beings. The essence of initiation, Steiner said, is learning the spiritual core of true language, the secret names of things.
In Waldorf schools, the occult significance of language is embodied in eurythmy, which Steiner called "visible speech, visible music":
Mastering the proper form of speech leads to altered consciousness and reascent into spirit realms.
For more on the Logos,
For a review of some related topics,
The Demiurgos, the Ancient of Days,
Zeus, Jehovah, the Immortal Mortal.
Note that Steiner's account of the Demiurgos
differs from what we find elsewhere.
A gnostic talisman.
[Rosemary Ellen Guiley,
HARPER'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYSTICAL & PARANORMAL EXPERIENCE
(Castle Books, 1991), p. 237
— image from Dover Publications.]
More of the same:
[Lewis Spence, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OCCULTISM
(Dover, 2003), facing p. 184.]
The occultism found behind and in Waldorf schools
differs from other forms of occultism is many ways.
But there are also many links between Anthroposophy
and occultism at large.
Gnostic cross incorporating the "four elements."
Gnostic Sun emblem (the Sun
in the center of the celestial vault):
double, intersecting crosses.
Double, intersecting crosses
with the celestial vault completed
to symbolize eternity enclosing temporality.
[Rudolf Koch, THE BOOK OF SIGNS
(Dover Publications, 1955), pp. 93, 22, and 23.]
This is a sketch of scenery used at the Goetheanum
— the Anthroposophical headquarters —
to stage Steiner's mystery play
"The Guardian of the Threshold".
For an overview of Steiner's four
mystery plays, see
Gnosticism may be traced back
to ancient Greece and beyond.
Steiner's representation of these matters
is often inconsistent with more reliable sources.
"Mystery religion, any of various secret cults of the Greco-Roman world that offered to individuals religious experiences not provided by the official public religions. They originated in tribal ceremonies that were performed by primitive peoples in many parts of the world. Whereas in these tribal communities almost every member of the clan or the village was initiated, initiation in Greece became a matter of personal choice. The mystery religions reached their peak of popularity in the first three centuries ad. Their origin, however, goes back to the earlier centuries of Greek history." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.
"Gnosticism, any of various related philosophical and religious movements prominent in the Greco-Roman world in the early Christian era, particularly the 2nd century.
"The designation gnosticism is a term of modern scholarship. It was first used by the English poet and philosopher of religion Henry More (1614–87), who applied it to the religious groups referred to in ancient sources as gnostikoi (Greek: those who have gnosis, or “knowledge”). The Greek adjective gnostikos (“leading to knowledge” or “pertaining to knowledge”) was first used by Plato to describe the cognitive or intellectual dimension of learning, as opposed to the practical. By the 2nd century ad, however, gnostikoi had been adopted by various Christian groups, some of which used it positively as a self-designation, though others criticized this practice as a presumptuous claim of exclusive access to truth." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.
"Early heretical movements
Gnosticism, from the Greek gnōstikos (one who has gnōsis, or “secret knowledge”), was an important movement in the early Christian centuries — especially the 2nd — that offered an alternative to emerging orthodox Christian teaching. Gnostics taught that the world was created by a demiurge or satanic power — which they often associated with the God of the Old Testament — and that there is total opposition between this world and God. Redemption was viewed as liberation from the chaos of a creation derived from either incompetent or malevolent powers, a world in which the elect are alien prisoners. The method of salvation was to discover the Kingdom of God within one’s elect soul and to learn how to pass the hostile powers barring the soul’s ascent to bliss. The Gnostics held a Docetist Christology, in which Jesus only appeared to assume the flesh. Although not assuming material form according to the Gnostics, Jesus, nonetheless, was the redeemer sent by God to reveal His special gnōsis. Irenaeus and other Christian theologians, as well as the 3rd-century Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus, dismissed Gnosticism as a pretentious but dangerous nonsense.
"Along with Irenaeus and others, the writers of the later New Testament books seem to have opposed early Gnosticism. The supporters of what would become orthodox Christianity stressed the need to adhere to tradition, which was attested by the churches of apostolic foundation. A more hazardous reply was to appeal to ecstatic prophecy. About ad 172 a quasi-pentecostal movement in Phrygia was led by Montanus with two prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla, reasserting the imminence of the end of the world. He taught that there was an age of the Father (Old Testament), an age of the Son (New Testament), and an age of the Spirit (heralded by the prophet Montanus). Montanism won its chief convert in Tertullian. Its claim to supplement the New Testament was generally rejected, and the age of prophecy was held to have ended in the time of the apostles." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.
"Gnosticism. A complex of religious movements, having at least some of its roots in Jewish and pagan thought but appearing in developed form as a Christian heresy in the 2nd cent [i.e., century]....
"Among the points of difference [between gnosticism and orthodox Christianity] are (i) the distinction between the remote supreme Divine being and the inferior Demiurge ... (ii) the importance of gnosis ('knowledge') as a means of redemption ... and (iii) a christology of Jesus as the emissary of the supreme God in docetic human form.
"Opponents of gnosticism...pointed to the plain sense of the scriptures and the unbroken tradition of the Church as proof against the legitimacy of esoteric revelations; to the absurdity of gnostic cosmology...; to the reality of Jesus' sufferings; and (apparently without good reason) to the immoral character of the gnostics themselves...
"Recent study...has supported two conclusions: first, gnosticism should probably be seen as an originally non-Christian phenomenon ... Second, the gnostics were ousted by the church in the 2nd-3rd cents [i.e., centuries]...." — THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF WORLD RELIGIONS (Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 376.
Predominant in the mystery teachings
of Anthroposophy is the influence of
The myths of the Norsemen give an accurate
albeit mysterious account of human evolution,
[See "The Gods".]
Norse myths are emphasized
in Waldorf education.
Norse gods, by Lorenz Frølich.
Steiner's doctrines emerge from a welter of religious, occult, gnostic, Rosicrucian, and esoteric traditions. Despite the efforts of Steiner, Blavatsky, and others, a fully successful synthesis of these traditions has never been achieved. Here is a diagram summarizing one attempted, partial synthesis, focusing on the books of the Bible. In part, this attempt bears similarities to Steiner's own work; in part, it is quite different. By taking such disparate efforts into account, we perceive Anthroposophy in its esoteric context, one system among a plethora of systems.
The dream of mysticism,
the goal of gnosticism:
seeing the invisible.
Gnosticism is distinct from
other spiritual paths,
but it arises recognizably
from a central religious impulse.
Waldorf student art courtesy of
The middle painting includes the Hindu
symbol for the mantra "Om" or "Aum,"
which is meant to embody the universe.
Steiner employed it sometimes.
In a strange version of the Lord's Prayer,
He used these words:
“Aum./Amen./Evils reign/Bearing witness to I-being....”
— Rudolf Steiner, START NOW!
(SteinerBooks, 2004), pp. 220-221.
Christ, the god of the Sun;
sketch based on sculpture by R. Steiner
Charts by which Ramon Lull
tried to expose the secrets of the universe.
[Martin Gardner, SCIENCE: GOOD, BAD AND BOGUS
(Prometheus Books, 1989), p. 36.]
Steiner was an industrious scholar of the occult. He knew a vast amount about matters that have no real bearing on life or truth.
For Steiner's teachings about the Holy Grail,
please see "Grail".
To learn about damnation, Steiner-style,
Hidden meanings can be found anywhere.
To learn more, please use this link: "Magic".
For more on Michael, his mission,
and his antagonists, see "Michael".
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch,
use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 9. WALDORF AND RELIGION ◊◊◊
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 Rudolf Steiner, ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (Rajput Press, 1911), p. 4.
Steiner made this statement while he was a Theosophist: Gnosis (secret knowledge) and Theosophy (knowledge of god) are one and the same. As a leading Theosophist, Steiner always advanced his own version of Theosophy, which as early as 1902 he began referring to as Anthroposophy (knowledge or wisdom of man). Thus, in identifying Theosophy as Gnosis, he effectively identified Anthroposophy as Gnosis.
After Steiner broke from Theosophy to establish Anthroposophy as an independent system, he said he did so because the Theosophy described by others — predominately Helena Blavatsky, the central figure in Theosophy — was faulty. Greater, more complete truth lay in his own teachings, he claimed.
 Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.
This is another quotation from Steiner's Theosophical years. Here it is in more complete form:
 See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"
Many Anthroposophists belong to the overtly religious extension of Anthroposophy called the Christian Community. They consider Anthroposophy a science that provides the spiritual knowledge revered in the Community. However, I have argued that Anthroposophy is itself a religion, rooted in faith not knowledge, and practiced in order to gain spiritual blessings. Foremost among the desired blessings is salvation (which is Anthroposophy is spiritual evolution to immortal divinity).
The distinction Anthroposophists try to establish between their "science" and their faith could be asserted by others with reference to their own spiritual practices. Studying any catechism or holy book, or receiving any types of divine inspirations or visitations or messages, might be called "science" — you are gathering truth, not worshipping. You then use the truths you have attained to engage in religious actions such as prayer and worship. If a distinction between science and religion holds for Anthroposophy, it holds for other spiritual movements as well. But the fallacy is obvious. The study and the practice are intimately linked and, in fact, inseparable. They are the twin sides of religion.
 “The development of Christian doctrine was to a large extent a reaction against Gnosticism.” — "gnosticism." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 23 May 2008.
The basic concept in Gnosticism is that salvation is attained through the acquisition of knowledge, not through faith or good works. Steiner taught that religion, as such, will become unnecessary. It will be replaced by his own teachings, spiritual science: Men will have esoteric knowledge and will no longer need faith.
Note that "Christianity" is not greater than all other religions; it is greater than any and all religions. This reflects Steiner's claim that his teachings are not a religion. "True" Christianity, he taught, is gnostic, it consists of secret knowledge. His teachings (Anthropo-sophy: human knowledge) embody the secrets. That is, he possessed true Christianity; churches do not possess it.
In this sense, Anthroposophy is the one true religion, according to the logic of Steiner's assertions.
 There have been many versions of Christian gnosticism. In some, there is belief in, or “knowledge” of, many Demiurges, who were a band of gods. In others, there was a single Demiurge, but above him stood other gods who were not, as such, Demiurges. Thus, gnosticism has often been polytheistic.
In most gnostic systems, the Creator of the physical realm was described as a lowly god, who created an inferior level of existence.
Sometimes, rather than working toward a divine vision, the Demiurge was thought to be an evil spirit.
 Steiner typically changed religious teachings to conform to his own vision, or he sought and emphasized teachings consistent with his own. Whereas the Demiurge is usually thought to be a low-ranking god, possibly evil, Steiner depicts him as "a Being dwelling in spheres of lofty spirituality ... a sublime Being" presiding above, and sending forth, subordinate gods. (We will see this quotation, at greater length, presently.) In this conception, the Demiurge becomes essentially the presiding Godhead, the fountainhead creation, from whom ranks of gods issued.
Steiner's conception of the Godhead is complex. The Godhead is, in a sense, the creative force within everything, hence it is immanent everywhere. On the other hand, however, the Godhead generally has no direct involvement with us, and may more truly be conceived as divine will, the divine impulse behind creation, a nebulous force rather than a specific divine presence. The universe as described by Steiner is aswarm with gods who stand below the Godhead; they interact with us as the Godhead does not. In no sense, according to Steiner, do we live in a monotheistic universe. Only in a distant future may the universe become monotheistic — that is, only then will the Godhead become fulfilled in the form of a One True God. We will by then have joined with this God, and we will have been redeemed. In a sense, we ourselves will be this God. If we think of the Godhead as the origin, then God is the goal. [See, e.g., "All", "God", and the entry for "Godhead" in the BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.]
Concerning the "crystal heaven":
 Concerning Steiner's treatment of Jehovah: Steiner’s doctrines contain many traces of anti-Semitism. He said that The ancient Jews were spiritually no more advanced than embryos, and because they clung to their infantile ideas (the Old Testament), they led us to the materialistic, atheistic mess we're in today.
 Rudolf Steiner, “Gnostic Doctrines and Supersensible Influences in Europe” (ANTHROPOSOPHY - Michaelmas 1931, Vol. 6, No. 3), GA 225.
When he described the beliefs of ancient peoples, Steiner sometimes took the role of a scholar of religion; he explained various belief systems without apparently endorsing them. Sometimes, indeed, he drew distinctions between ancient beliefs and the "truths" he himself set forth. However, Steiner very often effectively did endorse ancient teachings, and in turn he offered such teachings as a sort of endorsement of his own teachings. He argued, in effect, that the parallels between various belief systems indicates the truth of these systems. His basic stance, often, was that ancient peoples had deep — but incomplete or flawed — spiritual wisdom. His own teachings, he claimed, corrected the errors of the past while also perfecting the wisdom of the past.
 Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD: THE SEARCH FOR THE HOLY GRAIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), lecture 1, GA 149.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 277-278.
It is enlightening to note that by "pre-earthly existence", Steiner meant life in "the spirit-world of the stars."
 "Salvation" is a tricky concept, in Anthroposophy. Steiner generally taught that the goal is not so much to be saved as to make spiritual, evolutionary progress. Still, we may speak of salvation, as Steiner himself did, as long as we bear the Anthroposophical meaning in mind. E.g.,
Anthroposophical teachings include occult versions of heaven and hell. Good humans will eventually become gods. This will be "salvation" indeed. But errant humans will pay the price for their errors. Eventually they will arrive at the Abyss:
 Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1973), #21, “Gnosis and Anthroposophy", GA 26.
The capital-G "Gnosis" Steiner refers to came before the 2nd Century A.D., and is thus, more properly, small-g "gnosis." The distinction tends to get lost in Steiner's statements, in part because in German all nouns are capitalized.
 This evolutionary process is tied to the hierarchy of races, as Steiner described it. Some races are higher than others. Good humans evolve upward into the higher races; bad humans descend into the lower races.
 Rudolf Steiner. THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, p. 58.
In some instances, I have drawn quotations from an earlier edition of this book — the content is the same, but occasionally the expression is clearer in one edition than in another. For consistency, I will give the page numbers for the 1996 edition, cited above.
In the 1996 edition, the word "blasphemous" was replaced by "irreverent."
 ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1973), #14, “A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos”, GA 26.
 See Rudolf Steiner, THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL: HIS MISSION AND OURS: Selected Lectures and Writings (SteinerBooks, 1994).
 “A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos”.
 THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES, lecture 5, GA 110.
 Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1979), p. 310.
 The prefatory note can be found in, e.g.,
and other Steiner books. Multiple repetitions of the note can be found at http://www.rsarchive.org/Search.php.
Concerning the School of Spiritual Science: During the Christmas season, 1923-24, Steiner announced plans for the school. [See Johannes Kiersch, A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2006).] The primary center for Anthroposophical studies today is located at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland [http://www.goetheanum.org/300.html?L=1].
The School of Spiritual Science was originally meant to include three central "classes," but Steiner created only one before death took him. This First Class may be considered the inner core of Anthroposophy.
 Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), pp. 104-105.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944).
The book is also available in other editions and translations, e.g., HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994).
 Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979).
For a tour through this book, see "Everything".
This book, too, is available in numerous editions and translations, e.g., AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922) and AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997).
 OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 272.
In KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, Steiner is even more explicit about the need for reverence and the inadmissibility of critical thought. He describes a dubious condition of childhood, claiming that it lays a good foundation for adulthood.
Steiner describes an attitude that may or may not be good for children, but that is clearly hazardous for adults. We must use our heads and think critically; hearts are not always reliable; veneration is not always due. Truth and knowledge are not attainable in the manner Steiner prescribes. Even if we school our hearts and souls, as Steiner says we must, our intuitions cannot be the sure guides he wants them to be. The promise he offers is highly appealing, but he provides no substantiation for his claims — he merely offers the ancient fantasy of direct, sure, heartfelt certainty, a fantasy that has led to innumerable wars and other disasters, when blundering humans have felt sure they knew the divine will. We would like certainty in our souls, but humans have sought this from time immemorial, and often, tragically, our quest has led us astray. Essentially, Steiner advocates clairvoyance, which — sadly — does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".]
 OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 296.
 I discuss these subjects in various essays here at Waldorf Watch. Please use the Index and Table of Contents, or do Google searches of this site using the “Search Site” option near the top of each page.
 Rudolf Steiner, HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN? (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 49.
While Steiner generally deprecated intellect and the use of the brain [see, e.g., "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific"], he himself was an intellectual, and his own doctrines are presented, in a sense, as the result of "powerful spiritual thinking." However, he described a time when thinking becomes useless — the materialistic period in which we live now. Our materialistic use of the brain, a physical organ, avails nought; it lacks "the penetration needed to understand the Mystery of Golgotha."
 HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN?, pp. 53-54.
 Rudolf Steiner, BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1975), lecture 9, GA 141.
 THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, pp. 58-59.
 Ibid., p. 57.
 Ibid., pp. 61-63.
 Ibid., p. 61.
 Ibid., pp. 270-272.
 Ibid., pp. 278-280.
 “gnosticism." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 30 Sep. 2009.
 THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, pp. 207-208.